The New York Review of Books
The Rural Vision of Ravilious & Friends
December 15th, 2017, 09:53 AM
There is a palpable mood of nostalgia in England at present. This may have been expressed politically in Brexit, but it is also visible in the popular taste for “heritage” and lost worlds. In particular, Britain is awash with books and films about World War II, which all these painters lived through and which became part of their artistic legacy. The England that Ravilious and Bawden evoked so powerfully reflected neither reactionary sentiment nor aimless aesthetic ideals. Their rural vision was not about an escapist rural retreat or nostalgic nationalism, but about a precious common heritage, something worth fighting for.
Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control
December 14th, 2017, 09:53 AM
In both the US and the UK, investigations into the deployment of these shadowy forces are still in progress. In close contests, every influence counts. There is, therefore, an understandable temptation to emphasize that without secretive billionaires, or the Russians, or Facebook, the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election would have been different. And as elections are likely to carry on being close-run, it is important to track down and expose systemic manipulation. But it does not follow that slush funds, algorithms, and alleged conspiracies were primary causes of the electoral shocks of 2016.
Modigliani: Fevered Life, Pure Line
December 13th, 2017, 09:53 AM
These sensual images, with curving shoulders, breasts, and thighs outlined in black, with clever references to both old masters and contemporary styles, were a bald commercial venture. But these nudes overcome the cynical appeal to a male gaze. Their bodies are idealized, smooth shapes of sex, but their faces are those of individual women: some gaze out frankly, or peer teasingly, from beneath long lashes; others close their eyes or let their heads loll wearily, as if bored with the whole affair. It is as though Modigliani himself found peace in their calm stillness, away from his fevered life, away from the mass death and ravages of the war.
The Man from Red Vienna
December 13th, 2017, 09:53 AM
What a splendid era this was going to be, with one remaining superpower spreading capitalism and liberal democracy around the world. Instead, democracy and capitalism seem increasingly incompatible. Global capitalism has escaped the bounds of the postwar mixed economy that had reconciled dynamism with security through the regulation of finance, the empowerment of labor, a welfare state, and elements of public ownership. Wealth has crowded out citizenship, producing greater concentration of both income and influence, as well as loss of faith in democracy. The result is an economy of extreme inequality and instability, organized less for the many than for the few.
Out of Control
December 13th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Mary Shelley’s original three-volume novel Frankenstein was published quietly and anonymously in 1818 to little acclaim. The Quarterly Review stonily observed: “Our taste and our judgment alike revolt at this kind of writing.... The author leaves us in doubt whether he is not as mad as his hero.” If they had guessed the author was in reality a young woman, only eighteen when she began her first draft, no doubt the critical chorus of disapproval would have been even more thunderous. It is astonishing that the book ever got written at all.
Militants & Military: Pakistan’s Unholy Alliance
December 12th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe group can force the resignation of the justice minister for not being religious enough, Pakistan’s future looks grim. A genuine opposition that could be a counterweight to these machinations—a strong middle class, modern democratic political parties, a vibrant civil society, robust human rights groups, and free media—barely exists.
Bulldozing the Peace Process in Israel
December 11th, 2017, 09:53 AM
When Netanyahu claims, as he did recently, that Israel’s situation has never been better, he means, in part, that in his own mind he has smashed the Palestinian national movement once and for all. I have no doubt that this has been his goal all along. Indeed, Palestinians in the occupied territories are worn out, demoralized, fenced into small discontinuous enclaves where they lack basic human rights, where their land and other property may be appropriated at any moment, and where they may be arrested and incarcerated at the army’s whim. They are, by now, largely paralyzed by despair. Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem may galvanize them back into action; we shall see.
Rome on the Hudson
December 10th, 2017, 09:53 AM
The apparently hedonistic culture that emerged before World War I was a muddle of flagrant gestures toward personal liberation and subtle new forms of social coercion. Early-twentieth-century American society was on the verge of a reshuffling of values and power relations in which the rich would come out just fine. And New York City was where that new synthesis would be worked out, in all its messy and contradictory details.
Super Goethe
December 9th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Herr Glaser of Stützerbach was proud of the life-sized oil portrait of himself that hung above his dining table. The corpulent merchant was even prouder to show it off to the young Duke of Saxe-Weimar and his new privy councilor, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. While Glaser was out of the room, the privy councilor took a knife, cut the face out of the canvas, and stuck his own head through the hole. With his powdered wig, his burning black eyes, his bulbous forehead, and his cheeks pitted with smallpox, Goethe must have been a terrifying spectacle. While he was cutting up his host’s portrait, the duke’s other hangers-on were taking Glaser’s precious barrels of wine and tobacco from his cellar and rolling them down the mountain outside. Goethe wrote in his diary: “Teased Glaser shamefully. Fantastic fun till 1 am. Slept well.” Goethe’s company could be exhausting.
Gained in Translation
December 9th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Translators are people who read books for us. Tolstoy wrote in Russian, so someone must read him for us and then write down that reading in our language. Since the book will be fuller and richer the more experience a reader brings to it, we would want our translator to be aware of as much as possible—cultural references, lexical patterns, geographical setting, and historical moment. Aware, too, of our own language and its many resources. Far from being “just subjective,” these differences will be a function of the different experiences these readers bring to the book, since none of us accumulates the same experience.
The Unsexy Truth About Harassment
December 8th, 2017, 09:53 AM
This conflation of sex with “sexual misconduct” has led to some concern that what may result from the #MeToo moment is a “sex panic,” with all the attendant public punishment and casting out. But it’s too late: sexual harassment is a form of discipline, and it has already led to so many women being cast out from their work and the attention that is rightfully theirs. When men use sex to push women into inferior, undervalued, and invisible roles, that isn't sex; that's punishment. We must reject the idea that harassment is measured by how sexually violated the victim feels (or how she is told she is supposed to feel). Our conflict is not over sex, or with men in particular or in general, but over power.
Chaïm Soutine: the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker
December 7th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Dressed from head to toe in a vibrant red uniform with gleaming gold buttons, hands defiantly on hips, legs spread wide, the bellboy perfectly captures the tension, seen throughout the exhibition “Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys,” between personal dignity and professional subservience. A Russian émigré and the son of a poor Jewish tailor, Soutine rarely gave his portraits titles (hence the generic ones provided here), let alone bothered to note the names of his sitters. And yet he is known for posing his anonymous subjects like the royalty of yore: the bellboy’s regal red livery is reminiscent of ceremonial dress; and a pastry cook, his fluffed-up white cap perched on his head like a bejeweled crown, sits resplendent in a kitchen chair like a monarch on his throne.
‘My Only Friend Is My Conscience’: Face to Face With El Salvador’s Cold Killer
December 7th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Talking about the civil war was futile with Ochoa. A rambling discussion of Vietnam and ancient Rome, and Putin, Napoleon, and General MacArthur (three of his idols) was peppered with bald, personal pronouncements. When I brought up the theft of CIA documents again, he leaned back and looked at me for the first time with an expression of hostility. Five months later, the Salvadoran Supreme Court declared the country’s amnesty law unconstitutional. With the amnesty law lifted, a judge had recently agreed to hear a human rights case against Ochoa, and the colonel was said to be retaining counsel.
A Hero in His Own Words
December 7th, 2017, 09:53 AM
The theme is an ancient one, fondly nurtured by the Jews for the last two millennia. The Passover Haggadah says it explicitly: “In every generation they come at us to exterminate us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.” Needless to say, the Jews have good reason to recite these sentences once a year. The problem lies not in the historical record that gives them credibility but in the emotional and cultural investment in the idea, or perhaps the romance, of life on the edge of extinction, and in the political consequences of that idea in a generation for which the threat has vastly diminished, perhaps even disappeared.
A Philadelphia Lawyer’s Gilded Age Collection
December 6th, 2017, 09:53 AM
John G. Johnson’s acquisitiveness and acumen are commemorated on the 100th anniversary of his bequest in “Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As the title of the exhibition implies, Johnson chiefly collected medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque painting, but the glorious eye-opener of the show turns out to be his discerning response to the art of his own time.
Donald Trump’s Brains
December 6th, 2017, 09:53 AM
A battle for the future of conservatism is in effect being fought between anti-Trump conservatives—those who, like Eliot A. Cohen, David Frum, and Stuart Stevens, see him as a sinister mountebank who is destroying true conservative principles—and pro-Trump conservatives associated with the Claremont Institute, which for years has been discussing the Federalist Papers, the dangers of progressivism, and, above all, the wisdom of the German exile and political philosopher Leo Strauss. For some both in and out of government, the Trump presidency is a deliverance—or at least offers tantalizing promises of an audacious new conservative era in domestic and foreign policy.
Theresa May’s Blue Monday
December 5th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Britain’s agreement to accept Ireland’s demands over Brexit and the border is an expression of its weakness: it can’t even bully little Ireland anymore. And this would have been bad enough for one day. But there was another humiliation in store. Having backed down, May was then peremptorily informed by her DUP coalition partner that she was not even allowed to back down. It is a scarcely credible position for a once great state to find itself in: its leader does not even have the power to conduct a dignified retreat.
Michael Flynn: What We Know, What Mueller Knows
December 5th, 2017, 09:53 AM
In the efforts to figure out how much damage Flynn’s plea will do to Trump and other senior administration officials, most observers seem to have overlooked one of the few available metrics on the Mueller investigation: the size of his team. While the numbers have fluctuated, Mueller has somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen prosecutors. Thus far, we’ve seen official notice of what just half of them have been up to. Robert Mueller has put only a few of his cards on the table.
In Merkel’s Crisis, Echoes of Weimar
December 4th, 2017, 09:53 AM
The recent setback to coalition talks in Berlin has heralded Germany’s most intractable political crisis in modern times. The deadlock created after the Free Democratic Party quit talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc and the Greens has left only what the major protagonists have previously ruled out as unacceptable alternatives: for the chancellor to try governing with a parliamentary minority, and for the Social Democrats to agree to enter a “Grand Coalition” once again; or for Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to call new elections. Germany owes its difficulty to the results of September’s election for the Bundestag, in which a party of the nationalist far right won seats for the first time in decades.
Lies
December 3rd, 2017, 09:53 AM
Dear Norma,
I am writing from San Juan, from the one and only hotel here. I visited Mother this afternoon—a half-hour drive along a tortuous road. Her condition is as bad as I had feared, and worse. She cannot walk without her stick, and even then she is very slow. She has not been able to climb the stairs since returning from the hospital. She sleeps on the sofa in the living room. She tried to have her bed shifted downstairs, but the men said it had been built in situ, could not be moved without being taken to pieces first. (Didn’t Penelope have a bed like that—Homer’s Penelope?)
The Poet’s Pencil
December 3rd, 2017, 09:53 AM
I knew a poet who could only write his poems with a stub of a pencil. Nothing else worked for him as well. What he loved about writing with a stub is that it made his scribble mostly illegible. That way, he never felt embarrassed by what he had written. He’d look at it, and look at it, afterward, while trying to guess what in the name of God he had said.
Britain’s Game of Thrones
December 2nd, 2017, 09:53 AM
In an era of unbridled populism, however, personalities matter more than arguments. The current heir to the throne was jealous of his first wife, resenting the attention she got during public engagements; now he will have to accommodate a glamorous daughter-in-law trailing photographers and camera crews wherever she goes. Charles hasn’t spent years planning his coronation only to discover that the only question on anyone’s lips is “What will Meghan wear?”
More Light!
December 1st, 2017, 09:53 AM
The current retrospective of over sixty years of David Hockney’s work—reaching back to a teenager drawing what he saw in the mirror in 1954—brings together portraiture, landscape, and still life in every kind of combination. It reveals a wonderfully resourceful artist, but one whose working moods have seemed to veer between studious and strident.
Rachel Whiteread’s Solid Air
December 1st, 2017, 09:53 AM
There’s something cool yet passionate about Rachel Whiteread’s work. It is calmly paradoxical, domestic but monumental, tactile but detached, nostalgic but austere: objects and dwellings from everyday lives are lifted to a different sphere, a dance in space. In a new exhibition celebrating twenty-five years of her career as an artist, Tate Britain has removed the partitions that usually divide separate rooms, creating a huge open space with white walls and glowing, pale wood floor. She asks us to see things we know—tables and chairs, the inside of a room—from the opposite of our normal perspective, looking at the space instead of the walls, the gaps instead of the frames, making the air itself solid.
This Poisonous Cult of Personality
December 1st, 2017, 09:53 AM
Donald Trump’s election last year exposed an insidious politics of celebrity, one in which a redemptive personality is projected high above the slow toil of political parties and movements. As his latest tweets about Muslims confirm, this post-political figure seeks, above all, to commune with his entranced white nationalist supporters. Periodically offering them emotional catharsis, a powerful medium of self-expression at the White House, Trump makes sure that his fan base survives his multiple political and economic failures. This may be hard to admit but the path to such a presidency of spectacle and vicarious participation was paved by the previous occupant of the White House.
France, Islam, & the Ramadan Affair
November 30th, 2017, 09:53 AM
The Ramadan Affair has reopened the historical split over laïcité within the French left, but the dispute has found new grounds—about whether national identity is something fixed or evolving, about what place Muslims and immigrants have in the country’s future. These cleavages, which divide not only the French left but society in general, are something Emmanuel Macron had hoped to elude. But today, in the wake of the Ramadan Affair, Macron finds himself caught up in the return of this controversy. If President Macron fails to pull the country out of its socio-economic doldrums, he will have to face a dangerously sharpened identity politics.
Big Rocket Man
November 30th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Donald Trump has threatened “Little Rocket Man” with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”—not even seen, presumably, at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. We possess, after all, many more and much better (that is, much worse) explosives than were used by President Truman in 1945, when he incinerated those cities without Congress or the American people knowing we even had them. The fact that President Trump (“old lunatic”) has a legally absolute power to destroy Kim Jong-un (“short and fat”) over dueling insults is so scary that Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu are trying to restrict that absolute power, so that only Congress would have the authority to declare nuclear war. This seems not only reasonable but constitutionally necessary. The Constitution in fact denies the president the power to declare war and reserves it solely to Congress. More than that, the framers clearly opposed the massing of power in the executive—lest it become the monarchy they had opposed with a revolution.
Not So Innig
November 30th, 2017, 09:53 AM
To the Editors: Tim Page in his review of Harvey Sachs’s biography of Toscanini speaks of the preference of some of us for a particular style of interpretation of classical German composers, imbued with what the Germans call Innigkeit, or “inwardness,” as he translates the word. He surely means Innerlichkeit, the real German counterpart to “inwardness.” Innigkeit has nuances of warmth and intimacy.
Spy Novelists
November 30th, 2017, 09:53 AM
To the Editors: A small correction to “Back from the Cold” by Christian Caryl. John Bingham was not Sir John Bingham, but John Bingham 7th Baron Clanmorris of Newbrook, Mayo, whose ancestors included the winner of a VC at the Battle of Jutland.
Acting Natural
November 29th, 2017, 09:53 AM
The camera, just by its presence, altered human behavior. The motion picture camera changed the nature of acting. Among other things, it created that apparent oxymoron, the non-actor, the subject of an unusually rich and stimulating series now at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Programmed by Dennis Lim and Thomas Beard, “The Non-Actor” is predicated on the idea that all camera-based movies are documents and that filmed acting is perhaps synonymous with behavior. In this sense, the first movie actors—the workers filmed leaving the Lumière factory or the family that the Lumière brothers documented in Feeding the Baby in the mid-1890s—were the also the first non-actors.
Kick Against the Pricks
November 29th, 2017, 09:53 AM
At first it was a lot of enormous media potentates crashing to earth, followed by a bunch of lesser despots and lords, many employed in the media industries too, and it soon expanded to include half the men in Hollywood and ancillary trades like politics.
Walden on the Rocks
November 29th, 2017, 09:53 AM
In October 1849, 140 Irish immigrants perished when the St. John, the ship upon which they had sailed to “the New World, as Columbus and the Pilgrims did,” crashed on the shores of Massachusetts during a huge storm. We would probably not even remember their fate were it not that their demise was registered, and then narrated, by none other than Henry David Thoreau. This year, which marks the bicentennial of his birth, has focused, rightly, on a life dedicated to nature in its multiple and luminous forms, and his ground-breaking call to civil disobedience. And yet, it is worth also turning our attention to the calamity he witnessed such a long time ago and that nevertheless feels so sadly contemporary, so vividly relevant.
Truth in Advertising
November 28th, 2017, 09:53 AM
By the final scene, a great quantity of blood will have been splashed across the screen, yet despite the impressive amount of mayhem and gore on view, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an unusually literary film. Martin McDonagh, who began his career as a playwright, is intensely concerned with language. In fact, Three Billboards is partly about the power of language—specifically, the outrage and havoc caused by the few words that Mildred chooses to display. Just before Mildred’s first conversation with Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) begins, we may notice that Red is reading a book by Flannery O’Connor. It’s by no means a casual or accidental choice. One feels O’Connor’s spirit hovering over the film, and not only because, like her fiction, it is set in the rural South and leavens a deep seriousness with broad and often grotesque humor.
How to Stop Trump Blowing It Up
November 28th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Trump gave his UN speech on North Korea on September 19, which means that the War Powers Act’s sixty-day period for unilateral presidential action ran out on November 18. Under the act’s explicit provisions, the president can engage in no further provocations, such as military incursions into North Korean airspace, without gaining a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force from Congress. If North Korea assaults American bases in Korea, or fires missiles at Guam, Trump is indeed authorized to respond with “fire and fury.” But in the meantime, he must restrain himself—and the statute provides his congressional critics with special procedures to insist that he keep his forces under control.
China’s Art of Containment
November 27th, 2017, 09:53 AM
"Theater of the World" is an account of two important decades in that tortuous journey and it revisits the era of China’s global emergence from an academic and inclusive curatorial perspective. Crucially valuable is the effort made to redress an imbalance in the general international understanding of contemporary Chinese art, one which has previously over-emphasized what the art critic Jed Perl has called “radical chic with blood on its hands.” Regardless, the curators of "Theater," partly under the influence of Wang Hui, an establishment “new Marxist” favored by left-leaning Western academics, follow the trend of earlier exhibitions to celebrate too readily vacuous critiques of capitalism, to unearth supposed acts of resistance in artistic gestures, and to extol experimental forays as rebellions in miniature.
The Pizza Thought Experiment
November 26th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Manzotti: There is no such a thing as a thought that lies between your body and the Coliseum, or the photo you saw of it, or the article you read about it, no need for some sort of immaterial thinking magic to connect your actions with the external world. Simply, there is your body and there is the external thing your body has been in contact with. Of course, there’s also a lot of neural machinery that allows the world to produce effects through the body, but the experiences we call thoughts are no more, no less, than the external object as it affects the body. Let’s try an experiment. Think of something, right now. Anything.
Ku Klux Klambakes
November 26th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Most of us who grow up in the United States learn a reassuring narrative of ever-expanding tolerance. Yes, the country’s birth was tainted with the original sin of slavery, but Lincoln freed the slaves, the Supreme Court desegregated schools, and we finally elected a black president. The Founding Fathers may have all been men, but in their wisdom they created a constitution that would later allow women to gain the vote. And now the legal definition of marriage has broadened to include gays and lesbians. We are, it appears, an increasingly inclusive nation. But a parallel, much darker river runs through American history.
Hart Crane’s View From the Bridge
November 24th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Walker Evans's photographs of Brooklyn Bridge emphasized the lyric intimacy at the core of Hart Crane’s work by inviting the reader to look closely at the bridge from unconventional points of view. In one photograph, taken directly underneath the bridge, Evans’s lens, pointed up, turns the horizontal structure into a thrusting vertical funnel, soaring and expanding out of the frame. In another image, with the camera pointed down this time from a position somewhere midway on the span, the bridge doesn’t appear at all, just the shipping in the river below it, as if we were seeing what only the bridge sees. Evans’s photographs transfigured Brooklyn Bridge into abstract form that almost functions independently of subject matter.
Outing the Inside
November 22nd, 2017, 09:53 AM
In her long life, Louise Bourgeois experienced both extremes of the female artist story—marginalization, even invisibility early on, and decades later a fierce and passionate following by younger artists and curators. Her status was based on an independence from fashion, and on calling attention to emotions that most people prefer to keep hidden: shame, disgust, fear of abandonment, jealousy, anger. Occasionally, joy or wonder would surface, like a break in the clouds. But Bourgeois was an artist, not a therapist. Her imagination was tied to forms, and how to make them expressive. Her gift was to represent inchoate and hard-to-grasp feelings in ways that seem direct and unfiltered.
Trump and Havana’s Hard-liners
November 22nd, 2017, 09:53 AM
Trump is right: the Cuban military does exploit and abuse its people. The problem is that Cuba is governed by a military regime, which has a hand in virtually every aspect of the country’s economy, from hotels to farms to rental car companies. Cuba’s private sector, while entrepreneurial and growing, is minuscule by comparison. So not engaging with the Cuban military means barely doing business at all. But as the last fifty years have demonstrated, a US embargo will not starve the Cuban military into submission.
Anni Albers: Picking Up the Thread
November 21st, 2017, 09:53 AM
What strikes you as you enter the Guggenheim show is: Why on earth should she have been forgotten at all? One of the first pieces is also one of Albers’s earliest, a design for a wall hanging executed in 1926, while she was still a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar. She had arrived feeling “a tangle of hopelessness” and taken a textile class, grudgingly, because it was the only one on offer to her as a female student. Despite the poor tuition, she quickly realized that she had found her métier. The design is only thirteen-and-a-half inches high, in pencil and gouache: a rectilinear, Mondrian-like puzzle of yellow, black, and blue stripes and blocks, enforced by the weaving style Albers selected. Woven into a silk, rayon, and linen hanging by her Bauhaus colleague Gunta Stölzl, forty-one years later, it still looks immaculately contemporary. From the “tangle,” she had found shape and line.
Big Money Rules
November 21st, 2017, 09:53 AM
Two recent books—Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America and Gordon Lafer’s The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time—seek to explain several puzzling aspects of American politics today. Why do people of modest means who depend on government-funded health care and Social Security or other supplements to their income continue to vote for candidates who promise to privatize or get rid of those very programs? Why do people who are poor vote for politicians who promise to cut corporate taxes?
Sylvia Plath’s Different Shades
November 20th, 2017, 09:53 AM
One of the first things you see at “One Life,” the Sylvia Plath exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, is a long chestnut-brown ponytail tied with a blue bow. Plath’s mother cut it off when the poet was almost thirteen, and preserved it along with her letters and photographs. In the context of Plath’s deeply-documented life, this act seems like a ritual of female puberty, a cropping of the poet’s creative powers, and a shearing of their sexual potential. Plath believed that her mother, Aurelia, always disapproved of her poetic career and her marriage to Ted Hughes, and wanted her to choose a more stable profession, as well as a steady and sober husband.
Michael Flynn and the Turkish Connection
November 20th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Flynn faces possible fraud and money-laundering charges for failing to disclose a payment of $530,000 from the Turkish government. Flynn could also face conspiracy and kidnapping charges for allegedly negotiating a payment of $15 million to deliver to Turkey Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric and political foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. If indicted on these charges, Flynn could end up in jail for a long time. But knowing there is a potential presidential pardon in the works could dissuade Flynn from telling the truth as a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
It’s the Kultur, Stupid
November 19th, 2017, 09:53 AM
In a poll shown on German television on election night, 95 percent of Alternative für Deutschland voters said they were very worried that “we are experiencing a loss of German culture and language,” 94 percent that “our life in Germany will change too much,” and 92 percent that “the influence of Islam in Germany will become too strong.” Feeding this politics of cultural despair is a milieu of writers, media, and books whose arguments and vocabulary connect back to themes of an earlier German right-wing culture in the first half of the twentieth century. This is a new German right with distinct echoes of the old.
Lewd and Ludic: the Stampography of Vincent Sardon
November 19th, 2017, 09:53 AM
The Stampographer, a new catalogue of Vincent Sardon’s work, is exuberantly bizarre, often foul-mouthed, sometimes boring, sometimes tender. There are jolly naked cowboys, and blue-and-red biff-boff cartoon fights (Republicans and Democrats?), obscene photos and deliberately blasphemous images—not that anyone would disagree with Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa as an illustration for “the orgasm over time.”
Puerto Rico’s DIY Disaster Relief
November 17th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, aid remained a bureaucratic quagmire, mismanaged by FEMA, the FBI, the US military, the laughably corrupt local government. The island looked like it was stuck somewhere between the nineteenth century and the apocalypse. But leftists, nationalists, socialists—the anarchist and feminist Louisa Capetillo’s sons and daughters—were stepping up to rebuild their communities. Natural disasters have a way of clarifying things. They sweep away once-sturdy delusions, to reveal old treasures and scars. 
What’s in a T-Shirt?
November 16th, 2017, 09:53 AM
MoMA's “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” refers less to a period of time than to a way of relating to time itself—of dealing with and mingling the past, present, and future. The show features items that have been invented anew, used for present needs, or re-appropriated self-consciously to signal one’s identity, for political purposes, for nostalgic reasons, or simply as irony. Together, the exhibition and catalog present what could be considered a fashion “canon” for contemporary life.  
Norwegian Woods
November 16th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Edvard Munch was never simply a Norwegian artist. His appeal, like his own life, has always been both local and cosmopolitan at the same time. He may be best known internationally for his anguished paintings of the 1890s, especially for the group of works he created between 1893 and 1910 and called, in German, Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). In Norway, on the other hand, he is at least as well known, and deservedly so, for his monumental paintings in the Festival Hall, dedicated to the sun and its pale, oblique Nordic light. Two recent exhibitions, one just closed in Oslo, one just opening in New York, suggest the broad range of this complicated but consistently capable artist.
Russia’s Gay Demons
November 16th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Early in Vladimir Putin’s first presidency I spoke to a Moscow banker, with reason to care on this point, who said he detected no trace of anti-Semitism in Putin personally, but that Putin would encourage popular anti-Semitism in a second if he thought that doing so would serve his interests. So far, Putin has not felt the need to demonize Russia’s Jews. He has instead identified the enemy within as Russia’s homosexuals, whose persecution is one of the main themes of The Future Is History, Masha Gessen’s remarkable group portrait of seven Soviet-born Russians whose changing lives embody the changing fortunes and character of their country as it passed from the end of Communist dictatorship under Mikhail Gorbachev to improvised liberalism under Boris Yeltsin and then back to what Gessen sees as renewed totalitarianism under Putin.
Let Them Buy Cake
November 16th, 2017, 09:53 AM
When David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in Denver, Colorado, five years ago, they had no inkling that the encounter would take them to the United States Supreme Court. All they wanted was a wedding cake.
Year One: Trump’s Foreign Affairs
November 16th, 2017, 09:53 AM
Until a year ago, the US was setting a lead of a very different sort. America’s first black president seemed about to make way for the first woman president. Once again, the US was offering an example to the world, affording a glimpse of what twenty-first century democracy might look like. Instead, Trump has provided a glimpse into a gloomier future, one of lies, ethnic division, authoritarianism, and the ever-looming prospect of war. It’s fair to say that most outside the US are counting down the days, like a prisoner scratching marks onto the wall, waiting for Trump to be gone, so that the world might feel steadier, and safer, again.